Mission Delhi – Summer, Sector 45
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s difficult to say if Summer is aware that the world is passing through a tectonic shift due to the coronavirus pandemic. Summer’s vocabulary is too different—he’s a cat.
But he does seem puzzled that the two women with whom he shares his house never get out of the home these days, as they used to until some months ago. Shilpa Patra, 28, works in a content company and her elder sister, Somya, also has a day job. In these lockdown days, both are working from home.
Summer has kindly consented (or so it seems) to present himself for this brief profile on WhatsApp video from the isolation of his sprawling house in Gurgaon’s Sector 45 in the Greater Delhi Region; the pictures are taken through the phone screen that connects him to The Delhi Walla.
“In summer, Summer feels restless,” intones Shilpa. “He has no conception of AC or fan but he does need large empty spaces to move about when he feels uncomfortably hot.” And now he, who was used to be so nicely alone in the four-room residence during the day, has his solitude frequently intruded upon by these two women.
“But he likes us,” insists Shilpa. “Very often Summer plops down beside us out of affection while we continue to work on our laptops.”
Summer also likes his hair to be brushed often and both sisters happily take charge of his vanity.
But like most cats, Summer is independent and moody. See, he is refusing to clamber on Shilpa’s lap for an idyllic photo shoot. Instead, he jumps over the bed. Next moment he trundles down on the floor. Now he gets under a table and stands guiltily, like a convict in a witness box. After circling about the room, he finally stills down when Shilpa tempts him with his favourite chicken and fish strips.
“He became a part of our life in December 2017…. he was a little kitten then,” recalls Shilpa. This particular sector in the city, she informs, is full of stray cats and Summer was the only survivor among a litter of kittens found one day in a friend’s garden. Shilpa and her sister decided to get him home even though they have no history of living with pets.
When he arrived, the lady recalls, Summer was very small and “would roll into a ball on my lap, and in those chilly winter days that would give me the warmth of summer.”
That’s why they named him so.
Watching his movements, Shilpa recalls her childhood lunch hour in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, when her mother would feed one small portion of rice and dalma to her—after making a neat ball of the dal-chawal with her hand—and the other she would give to a stray cat who would routinely sneak in from the back garden.
While it is obvious that for the moment at least Summer doesn’t seem to care much for his housemate’s instructions and urges, Shilpa well remembers the time when she was reeling under dengue fever and he would quietly sit for hours on one corner of the bed in which she lay resting. “His affections are not showy as a dog, but I know he is very fond of us.”
Summer seems carefree in his own world, oblivious to the chatter about him. Perhaps because he is assured of the loves in his life.
[This is the 320th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Summer in lockdown